Israel, Holy Land is a beautiful country and this tiny country is definitely in our top list of countries to revist. Before you plan your trip, I want to share some information about visa, travel details, safety tips, best time to visit and top must visit towns/citites.
How to apply for a Israel visa from US?
We went to Israel in March, 2015 and we applied for the visa at Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco. If you are a US citizen, then you can stay upto three months from the date of arrival. You do not need a visa but must hold a passport that is valid for atleast 6 months from the date you are departing the country. All the details can be found here.
When to Go to Israel?
We visited Israel in March 2015 and left before Passover holidays. You should plan your visit around the weather and holidays. Summers are from April to October and it can be very hot with humid conditions along the coast. Winters are from November to March and the temperature are cooler. It was raining when we were at Galilee. It was like Indian monsoon. As you all know, Israel is a Jewish State and the busiest months tend to be October and August.
When is the weekend in Israel?
The weekend in Israel is on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is the start of the work week. In the Jewish religion, Saturday is the holy day of the week. All public offices and most business are closed from friday afternoon to Saturday evening. Trains, trams and bus services can be affected on these days. This can delay your plans for the trips planned on Friday and Saturday. We rented a car during our stay in Israel.
Is Israel safe to visit?
Israel’s location is tricky. Israel shares land borders with 7 countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon. Their conflict with Palestine remains unresolved. Hence their vigilance in security matters is top noth. We spotted full time secruity guards everywhere be it the supermarket, restuarants, shopping malls or shuks. Gaza Trip or West Bank requires prior clearance. Overall it is a safe place to visit. We went with my 2 kids and returned back to the US safely.
What is the currency in Israel?
The currency in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS).
1 US Dollar = 3.48 Israeli New Shekel
What to pack?
- I travelled with my 4.5 years old boy and 18 months old girl. Israel is sunny and warm in March however it rained cats and dogs in Galilee when we stayed. So carry a thick jacket with a hood for both kids and adults.
- Comfortable walking shoes as we walked a lot & flipflop for the beach
- Stroller for the baby
- Electrolyte packets for all
- Cotton pants and tops
- Sunscreen, hats and glasses
- Food for the kids
Things to plan and be aware:
- Travel time from San Francisco was close to 20 hours including transit hours. We flew from SF to New York and then to Tel Aviv. It is definitely a long flight so be prepared with toys, games and favourite movies for your kids
- Culture is very similar to India. We spend time with my husband’s colleagues and interacted with their neighbors. The kids in the neighborhood know each other and they run across the streets to neighbor’s house and there are impromptu visits from neighbors. My husband’s colleague lived in moshav. The culture and hospitality among them reminded me about India where I played in the streets till sunset and I knew most of the people in the neighborhood.
- I fed my kids heavy breakfast and dinner so anything in between is snack . BAsically, they ate what they wanted. We stayed in airbnb apartments and I could cook some of my kid’s comfort food like rasam, rice and eggs for breakfast.
- Always drink bottled water
- Read my post on kid’s travel food.
Day 1-4 at Haifa
- We drove straight to Haifa on the day we landed at Tel Aviv. We rested that day.
- The following morning we woke up to a beautiful view from the apartment we are staying in Haifa. Then we went to my husband’s office at Or Akiva for a welcome lunch. The meal gets prepared by their cook every morning.
- I had sore throat, cough before we boarded our flight to New York. Over the days, it got worse and on the day we landed Tel Aviv, I had severe ear pain while coughing and my eyes turned red. So first step while planning an international trip is to carry travel insurance. Major health insurance companies from US like Cigna, Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross process your claim. The colleagues at my husband’s office arranged for a doctor who visited me at their office. Isn’t that so convenient? Last time I remember having the luxury of doctor visiting the patient was in my grandmother’s home in the village. But the sad part was the doctor spoke only hebrew and absolutely no english. We had my husband’s colleague translate it for us. Just as a precaution call your insurance provider about international medical claim before you fly out . I did it as I was traveling with my kids and it came useful for me.
- After an awesome heavy lunch of more than 12 dishes of rice, chicken, salmon, salads, corn, pea soup, eggs we headed to Birds Mosaic Mansion. The lovely people at my husband’s office packed food for us so we can eat it for dinner.
- Birds Mosaic Mansion in Caesarea was originally part of a large 6th century mansion. The mosaic has a border of animals and trees which are native to the land.
- Then we went to Aqueduct, Caesarea with its Roman amphitheater, port, hippodrome.
- The day started off with my visit to my husband’s office at Or Akiva to meet with Limor, cook. She started to cook from 9.00am and reached only at 11.00 am. I watched her make the salad. She made 8 dishes today and my most favorite one was whole roaster cauliflower with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and oregano. She roasted them at 400F for 1-1.5 hours.
- Next we drove to Nazarath to visit the beautiful Basicilia of Annunciation, the largest church in middle east.
- We walked through the bazaar that leads to the church and drank fresh pomegranate juice and ate falafel sandwich.
- We walked further through the streets and found fresh almond fruit and an Arabic sweet called Awami ( crispy small donut balls fried and coated with sugar syrup) and crunchy baklava cigars
- Final stop was to view Haifa Port.
- We visited Bahai gardens on day 3. It took close to 1.5 hours from start to finish and back to the car. Do remember to check out the schedule for Walking tour in english before you arrive. That will help you save time.
- Next we went to Carmel beach for a lovely lunch with my husband’s CEO and family. Food was amazing and we ordered fresh pita bread with hummus, babaganoush, spicy butternut squash and beets dish. I ordered grilled fish with salad and rice.
- We then went to Ein Ayyala Moshav. Moshav means village in Hebrew and thats where my husband’s CEO lives. His house was nestled among banana plantations. My son loved the huge backyard, dogs, swing, trampoline, tractor. I felt as if I visited my family in Southern India. I felt really great to know about the village and understood the difference between village and Kibbutz (communal living) and every word I heard from CEO and his wife were so informative and I am feeling more knowledgeable about Israel now.
- It is so true that intracting with the locals helps one see many faces of the country. I heard real life stories about holocaust as his father lived through that phase in history . I got more insight about the country for sure.
- Then they were kind enough to take us to Zikhron Ya’akov. Since it is Shabbath ( weekly holiday) roads were empty and we walked past synagogues, stores and many historic buildings in the Zikhron downtown.
- Finally we drove to Yokneum Illit to meet my husband’s dear friend for Shabbath dinner at his home. His parents and family welcomed us with an amazing meal.
Day 4 & 5 at Galilee
1. We went to spice village at Beit Lechem. This place is a treat for food lovers. Spices! spices! More spices every where. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was so excited and I was tempted to pick every spice mix. I still bought close to 6 different spice mix to cook with fish, meat, rice and also to mix with hummus. A great place to add to your list.
2. Then we were off to Akko, northern costal city at Haifa bay. We ate at Abu Christo restaurant which was right next to the water. I tasted Turkish coffee for the first time with Baklava. Coffee was super strong, thick and black. We enjoyed a delicious lunch there.
3. We walked through the Akko shuk and I bought sweets, few Arab kitchen items and souvenirs.
4. We drove to the Kibbutz in Galilee area and called it a night.We are staying in Kibbutz in Galilee, Northern Israel. Kibbutz means communal living and the place is very scenic. It feels like visiting a hill station like Ooty, Kodaikanal, Southern India. There are little cottages and vast open space between each. My son enjoyed climbing trees, jumping in the puddle, plucking flowers, climbing rocks. It has been raining for the last two days and we are also taking a break from sight seeing to enjoy the place and catch some sleep.
1. We enjoyed a hearty Mediterranean breakfast in the Kibbutz and headed to a historic church and ate an awesome lunch from a local restaurant.
2. We spend the rest of the day relaxing at the Kibbutz and kids played in the olive orchards there.
Day 6-9 at Jerusalem
1. We drove back from Kibbutz to Jerusalem. We rented an awesome apartment in the downtown through AirBnB. Its close to shuk, train /bus station and all awesome restaurants, bakeries, supermarket, pharmacy, laundry service.
2. We spent the day walking through the historic alleys talking to locals, eating great food and shopping souvenirs. We also went to Mahane Yahuda and I shopped for some more spice mixes.
1. We went to Yad Vashem, museum in Israel. We took a train and my son loved it. This museum contains world’s largest information on holocaust. This was one of the places I was waiting to visit. I highly recommend to spend your time here if you care to know about Jew’s history.
2. We spend close to 8 hours at the museum and our way back we headed to Pasta Basta Restaurant at Mahane Yehuda for dinner. It is one of the popular food place to check out in the shuk. Its small, cramped and crowded. They have a limited menu and the food was brilliant. We ordered tomato soup, roasted pepper -cream-mushroom pasta and tomato- cream-zucchini pasta. They were super tasty. Do add it to your list of food to try inIsrael.
3. We walked back enjoying the busy streets of downtown and I am munching on hand crafted chocolates from Aldo, a shop opposite to the apartment.
1. We had an early start today . The plan was to cover Masada and Dead Sea. We left the apartment at 7.30am ( from Jerusalem) and reached Masada close to 9.00 am. Masada is an ancient fortification located in the Southern district of Israel overlooking the dead sea. You can hike to the top but we took the cable car . It is easy this way with kids. It takes 4 hours to do a complete tour of the fort. You cab buy the audio guide at the information center. It is very informative and it reminded me of Senji Fort, Tamil Nadu and Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad and other forts in India . Masada is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Israel. There was also a music performance by the locals.
2. Then we were off to Dead Sea to float. Yes! Did you know that we can easily float in Dead Sea because of natural buoyancy. The water had high salt content and hence there is no fish or any aquatic life in it. We reached there around 1.00 pm. I will recommend driving south as you exit Masada as you can find free entry to the beaches after a 20 minute drive. We went to the beach next to Hotel Herold. I saw everyone with mud on them. I didnt see any dark mud in the beach and I was so curious that I asked a fellow tourist. They told me that they are sold in packets in the souvenir shop. We bought a packet of dead sea mud, applied it over the body and sun dried it for 20minutes. Kids below 5 are not allowed to play but my son played with the water and pebbles. He was excited to find salt crystals along the shore and rocks covered in salt. I scrubbed my feet with the salt crystals that he got for me from the shore. He brought back few pebbles as a souvenir. I recommend kids to wear swimming goggles as eyes burn when salt water touches the eyes and skin. I floated and soaked myself in the sea for more than an hour. My skin feels super soft. Note-to-self: Do epsom salt bath every 15 days 🙂
3. On our drive back, we stopped in highway 90 to meet the camels. My son was so excited about meeting a camel. There were camel rides. One more happy memory there!
4. We reached the apartment at 7pm. After a quick shower, we went to try some local food. The fruit shop owner below our apartment gave us tips on places to visit and eat in Jerusalem downtown. Today he asked us to walk to Hummus Ben Sira. It takes about 10 minutes to walk to that place. I ordered garbanzo hummus with salad, pita and falafel and my husband ordered chicken hummus with pita and beer. With happy tummy and two sleepy kids, we ended the day.
1. We took the FREE 2 hour tour at Jaffa Centre, Jerusalem. Make sure to do this when you are in Jerusalem. It covers all the four quarters of the old city. My husband during his previous visit in Israel prayed in the Western wall and he does that every time he comes to this beautiful country. We can write our wish/prayers in a small sheet of paper and place it in between the gaps of the wall. Its a belief that the wish will be granted. Women and men pray in two separate sections of the wall. There is a small passage that leads to mosque where people with Islamic belief pray and we were at the Jewish quarter.
2. We ate lunch at Tala hummus and falafel place in the old city. I don’t think I can ever get bored of hummus, shawarma or pita. We have been eating the same menu every meal and we are loving it.
3. We spent rest of the day walking through the historic streets of old city.
4. For dinner we went to Pinat. It was mentioned in airbnb reviews that it has one of the best hummus in Jerusalem and it was right behind where we stayed. A quick stroll to the eatery and we took a take-out as they close at 7.00 PM
Day 10-12 Tel Aviv
1. We went to Mini Israel before we drove to Tel Aviv, our last stop of the trip.
2. We took a long nap and headed to the beach that is 5 minutes away from the airbnb apartment we stayed. We spend the evening playing in the water, collecting shells and walking through the busy streets of Ben Yehuda, Tel Aviv.
3. Ofcourse eating a lot of great food along the way.
1. My day started off with a brief meet up with a popular food blogger in Tel Aviv. We had so much to talk about and I am so glad that we could meet.
2. We met with my husband’s friend and family at Tel Aviv Port. We walked through the board walk with kids stopping at each play area. For lunch we went to most famous restaurant called Beni, the fisherman. First they served fresh out of the oven hot buns with more than 5 dippings and salad; there was hummus, babaganoush, tahini, pickled cauliflower, beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumber and deep fried cauliflower and fresh summer salad. To wash them down, we ordered fresh lemonade and orange juice. I was completely fill after eating them. For entree, we ordered deep fried and grilled Mediterranean Sea Monk with onion rings and roasted potatoes. I felt too stuffed for sure. Post lunch we walked a lot to make room to try some local food at the shuk in boardwalk.
3. There was an arabic stall with awesome array of sweets, chestnuts, beans and nuts. There was a crepe stall and also an Arab women was making fresh wrap with a bread similar to Indian Romali Roti. She topped with tomato sauce, zaatar spice blend and eggs and rolled it into a wrap. I tastes the semolina dessert from that stall.
4. Next to it was Holland pancakes made like South Indian paniyarams. They were served with chocolate spread, whipped cream and fruits.
5. After that was a Lebanese stall where a bread similar to Indian flaky parathas were made into a wrap with eggs and tomato sauce.
6. The most attractive one for me was the Italian Crema Fresca stall where fresh ice cream were made right before us in a super cold plate (-37’C temp) and served as roll ups. They also served fancy waffles in a stick. I tasted them both as it was too hard to resist.
7. We continued to walk around the beach, river and watched a public performance.
8. We then decided to wrap the day by visiting the last stop for the day – Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. My son wanted a bark of milk chocolate with hazelnuts in it. My husband bought a cappuccino and our friend and his wife bought chocolate milkshake. His youngest son ordered chocolate pizza and I went with Chocolate Souffle. They bought two milk chocolate syringes. I have never seen anything like this before.
Burp! I am in a food coma now.
1. Today my son and I took the bus to visit Carmel Shuk which was about 15 minutes bus ride from Ben Yehude, the place where I am staying. I took my son with me as he wanted to ride a bus. We spent two hours walking through the market and tasting few dishes that grabbed our eyes.
2. Then we took another bus to Levinsky market to join a walking food tour with @delicious israel. I was introduced to Inbal, the women behind the company Delicious Israel through a blogger friend. I joined a group of 12 people and we walked through the streets of Levinsky market tasting and talking about the culinary influence in Tel Aviv. I will share more details in my blog post. In the meanwhile enjoy the pictures of the food that we tasted today.
3. In the evening we went to the beach again to collect more shells for our travel journey DIY project.
4. We dined at a fancy Asian restaurant right across the street. Its called Nini Hachi.
Day 13: Our lovely vacation came to an end and we were on our return flight to San Francisco.
I hope this post will be helpful for anyone who is interested to visit Israel.
When are you going to Israel?
What you will find in this post?
- How to plan a 3-day road trip to places in and around Mt. Shasta?
- I have shared details about our trip
- My notes for your next trip
We did a 3-day road trip to places in and around Mount Shasta for the Labor Day Weekend. We live in the Silicon Valley area of California and Mount Shasta is close to 4-4.5 hours drive from my home. We stayed at Best Western Plus Twin View Inns and Suits at Redding for 2 nights. We booked it via costco.
Day 1, Lake Shasta Caverns:
We left home after breakfast at 08:30 am on saturday. The traffic wasn’t that bad considering its a long weekend. We reached Redding around 12:30 pm. We drove straight to Lake Shasta Caverns where the spectacular network of caves with limestone structure is hidden inside that mountain. The tickets are priced at $20 per adult & kids less than 5 years are free. It takes 2 hours for the whole experience. The visit to caverns starts with a 15 minute boat ride followed by 15 minutes scenic bus ride and finally you get to the cave entrance. It reminded me of my family trip to Arakku Valley and Boro caves in Vishakapatnam district. My kids enjoyed it as volunteers entertained them by pointing to different sections of the caves using flashlight and asked them to locate a santa claus, tiger and huge turkey. It was a hot day but the temperature inside was cooler than the outside so we made sure to walk around it couple of times and stay longer inside the caverns. The volunteers stationed at different sections of the caverns were so knowledgeable and explained to us the details about the formation of limestone. My kids were tired by the end of this trip so we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a night. We picked dinner on our drive back.
- After breakfast, we left for Burney falls. It was close to an hour from Redding. On the way we stopped at Station Cafe at Montgomery Creek to grab some food for the picnic at Burney Falls. The hike to the falls should be little more than a mile from the parking lot. My kids walked all through there. Some parents carried stroller but there are stairs so be prepared to lift and move the stroller along the way. We even saw lot of elders with hiking poles so the walk to the falls is pretty manageable. On the way to the falls, there is small bridge and we walked down to wet our legs in the flowing stream. My kids loved walking and balancing on the rocks to get to a comfortable spot to sit and dip their legs in the ice cold water. After a brief stop there, we walked further to see the falls. There is a viewing area at the top and those interested to reach the falls, can proceed further. We walked down with more excitement to see the most beautiful waterfall ever. Again I was transported to my childhood trips to Courtrallam waterfalls in South India. The only difference was that the water in Burney falls were super cold. This is a must see water fall for nature lovers. Sidd and I sat on the rock for a long time just to watch the water. We didn’t speak a word when we sat to admire the gushing water. The experience was so calming to my mind.
- We left Burney falls around 2 PM and drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The drive time was close to 1 hour. The entrance fee is $20 and it holds good for a week. You can also camp there. We drove around the entire park and stopped at Summit Lake North campground to play in the lake and enjoy the silence and do some bird watching. After that we drove through the scenic road and stopped at Sulphur Works to take a look at the mud pots. Finally we stopped by a beautiful creek and spent some time running around the vast space which was interupted with creeks on either side. My kids had a blast. Lassen National Park is at an elevation so we have to drive through the winding roads. Come prepared with plastic bags or medicines if you or your kids have tendency to throw up.We headed back to the hotel around 7.00PM after grabbing dinner on the way.
- On the last day of our trip, we decided to spent the time on the water so we headed straight to Lake Siskiyou. The waze app took us to the hiking trails of Lake Siskiyou. So make sure you enter “Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort, 4239 West A Barr Road”. It will takes you to a nice beach area with restrooms/changing room. The entrance fee was $1 per person and kids below 5 years are free. We reached there, changed to swimming suit and played in the water for close to an hour. It was little windy and cold.
- After that, we went to Shasta Fish Hatchery which was 10 minutes away. There was also a museum attached to it. We spent an hour exploring the tiny musuem and kids enjoyed feeding the fishes. We were told that the trouts from there were picked by the state department and tranferred to various streams, river and lakes where people can fish. Please make sure to carry 0.25 cents to purchase fish food from the machine.
We wrapped the trip and left Mount Shasta at 3.00 PM and reached our home after multiple stops at 08:30 PM. Since we missed celebrating Vinagayar Chathurthi on 05Sep2016, I decided to offer our prayers the following day. Vinayagar is always the first god we pray to. I even have his idol at my work place. He is so dear to me 😍. As his devotee, we believe that he removes all obstacles that come our way and showers us with happiness, success and prosperity. I went to bed planning to do the prayers first this morning. We were late by a day to do the Pooja but we did offer him his favorite prasadam : sweet kozhukatai & Sundal along with idli & chutney
|Shree Vakrathunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvada|
Vinayagar chathurthi wishes to you all. May your life be as long as his trunk and your life be as sweet as his kozhukatai
- Carry cold medicines and other required medicine for yourself and your kids
- Pack swim suits, beach towels, sunscreen, waterbottles and sunglasses
- Pack tons of snacks that your kids love
- Fly tot for my kids to rest their legs during the road trip
- Kid’s favourite blankets
- Travel pillow
- Travel snacks ideas + my travel checklist (download)
Day 5 of the trip started with my favourite breakfast of appam with sambhal and fruits. It was our last day of sight seeing at Sri Lanka as some of us in our group were leaving the following day by early morning flight.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
We visited this orphanage which is the home for about 60 elephants, out of which some are baby elephants found abandoned or orphaned in the wild at 11.00 AM. They were being cared, fed and trained by the wild life authorities. It was the hottest day ever but the feeding times made up for it. We saw baby elephants being bottle-fed with such huge bottles. After that we walked along the road to a river close by where all the elephants came for their daily bath. We sat for lunch at the nearby restuarant where we can see these elephants play in the water. Kids loved it.
After lunch, we walked around to shop for soveniers and was ready for our drive back to Colombo which was close to 2 hours. We rested for the night.
Rest of us spend Day 6 walking around the streets of Colombo. We ate at Shanmugas Vegetarian Restaurant before our evening flight that day. The food was delicious and you should definitely visit it if you love sambar and rasam.
Image Source from Google
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island country located in Bay of Bengal. It is our neigboring country but I couldn’t visit it until 2009. My parents visited Sri Lanka in 2010 with their friends and they loved it so much that they joined us for our trip. We had travelers who were Indian and American citizens. So my below tips will help travelers who have American or Indian passport. We flew by Mihin Lanka and Sri Lankan Airlines. It takes 1 hour from Chennai airport to Bandaranaike International airport.
The information shared in this post is compiled from the experience I gained in our trip. I am not an expert so if you have any questions with regards to visa or travel arrangements, please contact a travel agent or Sri Lankan Consulate. I travelled with our family of 15 members between the age of 2 to 70 years old.
A visa is needed to enter Sri Lanka and it can be stamped on arrival at the airport. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union in South Asia. It’s member countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. If you are from a SAARC country, the visa charge is $15 and it is $30 for other nationals.
I travelled with my 2 kids who were less than 5 years old. Please contact their pediatrician atleast 1 month before the date of travel. I met with my primary care physician and also visited local travel clinic for my vaccinations. Anti-malaria weight based tablets were prescribed to the kids. We received it from a compound pharmacy. I also purchased bug repellant spray, Steripen UV water sanitizer tick (incase we hiked in Sri Lanka) and sunscreen. I made them wear full sleeves shirts and pants which was also washed with Sawyer clothing repellant spray. Despite this my daughter got some mosquito bites which we treated with Calamine lotion. We bought it from local pharmacy at Sri Lanka.
My kids ate what was available. I didn’t carry anything special. Since the cuisine is very similar to South India, we all ate appam, dosa, bread, tropical fruits and yogurt. I made sure they ate food that were completely cooked (ofcourse except fruits).
The national currency is Sri Lankan Rupee. We exchanged dollars for Srilankan rupees with Thomas Cook at airport. The process takes 15-20 minutes.
We stayed in different location each day as we wanted to cover Negombo, Anuradhapuram, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Colombo.
I have written a detailed post about our trip here:
We were all set to conquer our agenda for Day 4 of our trip at the most beautiful country Sri Lanka. Personally I loved the breakfast spread each and every day I ate appam or dosa and fresh sambal topped with shallots.
We planned to cover Dambulla Cave temple, attend a pop-up meal at Matale Heritage Centre with 25 dishes and proceed to Kandy for a cultural dance show.
It is again a great hike. We had travellers between 2-70 years old and all of us hiked up to the temple. It will take 1-1.5 hours to reach the top. The temple was donated by King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC to Buddist Monks. Dambulla is a world heritage site. We loved walking through 5 different caves. Our travel guide first took us to the Golden Buddha Statue, Dambulla Golden temple which involved climbing about 500 steps and it is located downhill from the cave temple. We made it to the temple quite easily. We sat for sometime and then began the real hike to the top. Our kids loved it as they saw monkeys on the way. My 2 year old daughter was little tired so we took turns to carry her. My 5 year old was excited and he walked all the way to the top by himself. We carried a lot of water bottles as it was a hot summer day in early June.
Traditional Sri Lankan Lunch at Matale – Ena De Silva’s Home:
We highly recommend this meal if you are on your way to Kandy. You can enjoy the peaceful garden, talk to batik and embrodery artist and sit down for a delicious 25 dishes lunch meal. The meal was served in a beautiful location amidst trees and is located on a hill. . The craft centre is the place where local artists were making quality batik, embrodery, carpentry and brasswork. The centre’s kitchen makes the meal for the group (need to book a day in advance – Hema (+94-662222404) and we paid 2500 Srilankan rupees per head for a banquet of 25 dishes including rices, curries, chicken and fish. There is a video of the meal served at The Matale Heritage Center here by Asia Travel.com
Susantha Spice Garden Visit:
Lastly before our drive to Kandy we stopped at an Ayurvedic Garden. A natural medicine practioner did the tour for us and it was really informative. We purchased few products at their store. Later when I googled about the place, there was lot of articles which called it a spammer. So read those articles before you go and before you make a purchase.
Kandy Cultural Show
We wrapped the day by watching traditional Kandyan dance and fire performance by Sri Lankan dancer. It was priced at 1000 Srilankan rupees per head.
We headed to The Hotel Hill Top, Kandy for the night stay. The hotel rooms were neat but not mosquiot nets like the previous hotels we stayed.
Our travel in Sri Lanka for Summer of 2016 was fun. Hope you had a chance to read about Day 1 and Day 2.
On day 3, we were set to cover Polonnarwa, Habarana and then proceed to Sigirya Rock Fortress.
Coconut and Corn Snack: After breakfast, we were ready to leave for Polonnarwa at 09.00 AM. Our first stop for the day was at a coconut and corn shop on the highway. We took a short walk around the thatched shop. Kids loved seeing the paddy fields, a cow and a red auto. This reminded me of my vacation at my grandparent’s home (Cuddalore / Nellikupam).
It took close to 2 hours to reach Polonnarwa from Anuradhapuram. We had one of the most knowledgable travel guide Ben who shared lots of history and stories about the places we visited. He told us that King Vijayabahu-1 declared Polonnarwa as the capital city of Sri Lanka when he defeated Chola invaders in 1070 AD. We visited the world heritage site to see the royal palace, the Gal Viharaya where four splendid statues of Buddha carved out of rock is present. There was also King Parakramabahu’s statue. King Parakramabahu’s reign is considered as the Golden Age of Polonnarruwa as agriculture and trade flourished in the region. He built the best irrigation system in the country and we stopped for a quick look at the Parakrama Samudraya lake built by him.
Village Food Tour:
After touring Polonnarwa, we were super hungry. This place will be the icing to cake for food lovers. We signed up for a village food meal at Habarana (Wildlife Safari) with Nilanth (+94-777-067833). The meal is arranged on traditional buffet style in a long room covered with thatched roof. The food was placed in clay pots. The meals were served on a lotus leaf placed over bamboo plate holder. The lunch comprised of red and white rice along with 6 authentic curries, papadum, chicken, fish and salad. For dessert they served farm fresh seasonal fruits. Mineral water was also served as part of the meal. We payed 750 Srilankan Rupees per person. She also did a cooking demostration for a delicious dish she made with banana flower. I shared a short video on how to cut a banana flower here.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress:
After a delicious lunch and the summer heat made all of our 50+ year old family members except my grandmother who is 62 years old and kids tired. So we decided to drop them at Kassapa Lionrock Hotel and just 5 of us left to hike the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Kids spent the evening swimming at the pool and enjoyed running freely in the wide open space of the hotel. My couins, me and my grandmother were climbing the 5th century Sigiriya Rock Fortress hearing tons and tons of stories from Ben. The fortress was buildt by King Kashyappa. Here goes the story as narrated by Ben, our travel tour guide –
“Kashyapa was the eldest son to King Dhatusena. However he was not the heir to the throne as he was born to a mistress. Moggallana was the son born to the queen and he was the legal heir to the throne. Migara the commander of the king’s army had disagreement with king so he helped Kashyapa become the king. Kashyapa murdered his father by entombing him in a wall. Moggallana fled to South India fearing that Kashyapa would kill him. The people of Anuradhapuram disliked him so fearing an attack from Mogallana or his people, Kashyapa moved his capital to Sigiriya. His palace was built on top of the Sigiriya rock and from the top of the rock he had view of the city in every direction. Finally in 495 BC Moggallana returned from South India with an army and defeated Kashyapa’s army in the land around the rock. Seeing the defeat, Kashyapa killed himself with his sowrd. Moggallana became the king.”
It is a long hike and plan to start the hike around 4-5 PM as the sunsets and temperature drops. We watched the sunset from the top of the rock and it was the most beautiful sight ever. The hike took about 2-3 hours. This is a must see spot so plan accordingly to visit them.
Stay at Hotel Alakamanda, Anuradhapuram
We woke up early to pack the bags to leave for Anuradhapuram. The tour package included breeakfast which comprised of eggs, sausage, toast, fruits and tea/coffee. There were tons of tropical fruits like pineapple, papaya which were so tasty. Kids enjoyed a nice morning stroll around the resort that was nestled among backwaters and coconut trees. It was such a beautiful and serene place. We left for Anuradhapuram around 08:30 am. We travelled in an AC mini bus that fit our family of 14.
On our way to Anuradhapuram we visited Muneeshwaram temple at Chilaw and also a Murugan temple.
1. At the Murugan temple, we spotted a dancing peacock. Kids were so excited to see it. It did rain after 30 minutes.
2. Muneeshwaram temple has a story. It is believed that after his victorious battle, Lord Rama left Ayodhya in one of Ravana’s vimana. He felt that he was being followed by brahmas this dosham as he had killed Ravana who was a Brahmin. Stories say that when he visited this place at Chilaw, Rama felt that brahmahaasthi dosham was not following him so he stopped the vimana and asked Lord Shiva for remedy. Lord Shiva blessed him and asked him to install four long and there and pray to get rid of the dosham. Since then lots of Hindu devotees flock to this temple. We were asked to light lamps as a mark of respect for your ancestors.
3. ANURADHAPURAM CITY TOUR:
We did Anuradhapuram city tour after visiting the temple. Anuradhapuram is the first capital of ancient Sri Lanka. We first went to the It is the home for two world heritage sites. Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo-Tree) was brought as a Sapling of the tree under which prince Siddhartha attained to enlightenment and it is over 2,200 years old and is the oldest historically documented tree in the world. We walked along the entire premise where there was Brazen Palace (2nd century B.C), the 1600 stone columns we saw were all that is left of a magnificent multi-storied residence for monks.
Ruwanweliseya (2nd century B.C) is the most famous of all the Dagobas. It originally depicted the perfect ‘bubble shape” that modern restoration has not been able to accurately reproduce. Samadhi’ Buddha statue (4th century AD) is one of the most famous statues, depicting the Buddha in a state of ‘Samadhi’ or deep meditation. Isurumuniya rock temple (3rd century B.C) is well known for its rock carvings of ‘The Lovers’. Kuttam Pokuna – twin ponds (6th century AD) was used by the Buddhist monks as a bathing pool. Thuparama Dagoba (3rd century B.C) is the oldest Dagoba in the island, which enshrines the right collarbone of the Buddha.
After that we visited Mihintale. Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.
Overall it was a busy day we stopped at a local restuarant for lunch. Food was excellent but little expensive. It was close to a wildlife safari. We travelled with 4 kids between the age 2-6 and they were little tired as it involved a lot of walking and climbing the stairs. We finally returned to Hotel Alakamanda at Anuradhapuram.at 07.00 PM. The breakfast and dinner were part of our tour package.
I just got back from a trip to Sri Lanka covering Western/ central province with my family (cousins and aunts). The travel time from Chennai is 1 hour 15 minutes. The most convenient trip ever with 4 kids on board.
We landed at Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, 34 km north of Colombo, near Negombo around noon and the drove straight to Negombo, ( it translates to ” neer cozhumbu” in Tamil) . It is 35 km north of Colombu and it is a beach town famous for sea food.
We requested our travel guide to take us to an authentic restaurant that serves typical Sri Lanka food – the rice and curry platter. We are so glad that he found a restuant on our way to Negombo. The meal comprised of red or white rice, vegetable stir fries, lentil curry, seafood, poultry and red meat curries. The meal was served over lotus leaf which was available in abundance in Sri Lanka. In Hindu and Buddhist temples the Gods and Buddha were decorated with lotus and water lilly.
For me it reminded me of American Chipotle where we can pick our combination of dishes. I asked them for white rice, cabbage leaves stir fry, egg plant curry, potato masala, fish curry. We noticed that at Singhalese household yogurt / curd is not part of the main meal which is different from Tamils as we eat yogurt mixed in rice as the last dish in almost every meal. So we missed finishing off the delicious meal with dollops of yogurt.
For dessert, we tried a local flavor in ice cream. It is called Pani Cadju ( it tasted like vanilla ice cream topped with honey and nuts)
Within 45 minutes we reached Kumudu Valley resort which was located near the beach. We spent rest of the day walking around the resort and kids loved the beach. We ended the day by cooling ourself at the swimming pool.
Overall the first day at Sri Lanka was simple and relaxed. The weather was hot and humid so we kept ourself hydrated throughout the day.
We went to Harley Farms during a weekend. It is a convenient location to drive to from San Francisco and Silicon Valley. If you have younger kids, visiting Harley farms will be farm. There is goat tours including cheese tasting tour. We paid $20.00 per ticket for the goat tour but the visit to the shop and picnic area is free.
There was a shop small by the owner and you can good quality goat cheese, olive oil and artisan bread. We packed some food and picned in the open space there. My son loved the location as he spotted goats, llama and cows. He felt so liberated as he could run around the entire space freely. The gentle wind from the Pacific made the day even beautiful for us. The drive to the farm is also scenic as there is Pacific ocean on one side. Overall, I highly recommend visiting Harley farms or Pescadero for a day trip from San Francisco.